JUUR (ROOT) has been found

Text: Kätlin Karu Photos: Lauri Laan, Marek Metslaid Published: 2 / April /2018

Right next to Tallinn airport, in former mechanical assembly workshop no. 17, where from 1958 to 1986 truck cranes were produced, a restaurant with a completely new concept has opened its doors. Restaurant Juur has already been so popular during its first month, that in spite of 80 seats – becoming 120 seats in summer – it is wise to book a table for dinner.

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There is, indeed, a lot to discover. Under the guidance of head chef Kaido Metsa, bold dishes are born. The restaurant's Nordic cuisine honours traditional cooking techniques and pure organic produce. "I am spiritually adhered to the principles of why we eat in the first place. The produce must be respected!" says Kaido about his food philosophy.

Kaido, who has previously worked as head chef of the restaurant Gloria and was placed 2nd in the Chef of the Year 2016 competition, has also practised in London's Peruvian Michelin-star restaurant Lima. Experiences taken from these significantly more classical top restaurants, are realized in the Juur's unique menu. This menu is, by the way, sampled and approved by one of the brightest stars of Danish molecular gastronomy, Anders Selmer. Selmer is also one of the founders of NOMA, a restaurant that has repeatedly been awarded the title of world's best restaurant.

Gourmet coffee restaurant Juur is for people who like to travel, both in real life and in the vast array of flavours. This is also reflected in the restaurant's interior design, where sea containers are used. One of the top Estonian designers, Tõnis Kalve, has created an interior that amplifies the contrast of old and radical new. The time-torn industrial style is mixed with the modern, slightly punk, metropolitan style.

The restaurant's creators' aim is to make "the local truffles" and forgotten traditional techniques familiar again. To do this, most of the produce is local. The cheeses ripen at Andre Farm in Tartu, herbs are picked from Saaremaa and most of the vegetables used are biodynamic varieties from the ancient forests of Kaika village in Võru County. Instead of asparagus, rosebay willowherb is used, and in the ice cream you can taste chaga mushroom – these are just a few examples of the extremely enjoyable, special domestic produce, that can be found on the plate at Juur.

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The restaurant's head chef Kaido hopes to have a greenhouse on the roof of the restaurant in the future, so that customers would be able to pick their own salad, which the chef can then prepare.

Kaido describes the menu creation process as big Lego – the stronger the building blocks, the more powerful the outcome. To have a great menu you simply have to have mighty Lego pieces. Therefore, in addition to changing the seasonal produce, we change the working methods, and to open the restaurant in spring, we began picking the gifts of nature as early as last summer. During winter it is more enjoyable to eat fermented or dehydrated foods and towards summer more greens and vegetables are available, which are used with care in our menu. In addition we use ageing and drying and try to combine these techniques with different produce. A fascinating introduction to the evening is the grilled pear with onion dust, accompanied by a mysterious drink with tarragon oil.

In addition to the à la carte menu, the business lunches have won many hearts in Tallinn's commercial Ülemiste district. The concept is again very simple. Every day there is a new two- or three-course menu. The food is served quickly, but the experience is still otherworldly, and consists precisely of what is currently available in the forest, field and garden.

Vegan and vegetarian friends should also be satisfied. The restaurant's menu is flexible, you just have to indicate your wishes. Three- to four-course special menus based on the existing menu have already been made.

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Juur works in symbiosis with the Coffee People, whose specialty coffee comes from small farmers' fields, each with its own story and unique flavour profile. This guarantees an excellent coffee selection, even for the most demanding customer. Since there is a small coffee shop alongside the restaurant, you can purchase your favourite freshly roasted coffee and all the equipment for preparing it.

Kaido's principle of developing the menu is simple – to make something is better than doing nothing. Just be brave and surprise customers with things that they might not have heard of, but if they try, they will approve. As a satisfied customer, I wish him joy and hope he continues to keep testing out new things.

Valukoja 10, Tallinn | +372 607 0705 | Mon 11:30-17, Thu-Fri 11:30-22, Sat 16-22 | www.restoranjuur.ee

Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies  (summer 2017).